Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Last week-end, we decided to take a trip to Portland, OR to see our new nephew, his parents, and some good friends of ours. Of course we wanted to see Portland too! Living in small towns leaves me yearning to be back in big cities from time to time. I'm not sure I'd ever want to live in a big city again, but if I had to, Portland would be high on my list of "livable cities". Truth be told, I've already lived in the Portland area when I spent a year at Oregon Health Sciences University, getting a degree and interning in Medical Technology (working in a medical lab doing all sorts of testing.. chemistry, microbiology, blood banking, etc...). At the time I was so incredibly busy that I didn't have much time to explore the city, but we've always been fortunate to have family in the area to visit and play tour guides.

This time we went downtown, took the MAX light rail to the Saturday Market to explore the hand made art and craft items. It was interesting to see some of the same vendors that were there many many years ago when I first started going there. They'd moved their location to another area under the Burnside Bridge. I'm afraid the seedier part of Portland was also on full display there. My kids both heard more swear words in a matter of minutes from homeless people than they've probably heard in their whole lives.... Oh well.... They later repeated a few of these words in the car and we had a few interesting teaching moments and discussions... ahem....

Portland is a city of bridges. With so many rivers traversing the city and so many hills it's a challenging place to drive in. No wonder the MAX is so popular.

It has to be one of the most eco-friendly cities that I've ever visited too. Only in Portland have I ever seen these public toilets...

See what happens when you get a tiny camera that fits nicely in your pocket? I wanted to take a picture of the hand dryers too. I've never seen anything like them either, but there were too many people and I'm not quite THAT bold...

Did I mention the food? Portland has some great places to eat. Sushi was high on our list. We stuffed ourselves! My in-laws also had at their home some incredible local coffee, bread and wine that will keep me day dreaming until I we can make another trip to sample them again. I highly recommend Portland as a place to visit. Many have a hard time living there, due to the dark rainy winters, but that's OK. Visiting Portland in the winter reminds me of visiting New Orleans in August. It's a great time for those (like me) who don't like "crowds"!

Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I must say that I'm incredibly thankful for our family and the friends who have enriched our lives so much! I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pictures of Pendleton

Shame on me! I realized after my last post that I still have no pictures of Pendleton on here! I've been downtown many times, but have failed to take any pictures. I had to go to the dentist today (got bad news... I need a root canal). He's just a few blocks off Main Street, so I took my camera and got a few shots looking down Main Street. Pendleton's down town area isn't as large as Walla Walla's is, but they both share some similar architecture and some neat old buildings. Also, it looks like I'll be back in W2 sooner than expected, as they have the closest endodontist. Oh joy! On the bright side, I may be delaying my next mammogram for another 9 years ;-)... LOL

Of course my favorite spot downtown is the Great Pacific Wine and Coffee Company. (Gosh I need to figure out how to do hypertext, or whatever it's called) I have a very hard time going anywhere near it without stopping to get some yummy cheese, delicious chocolate or food and/or beverage. I spent some time looking at their selection of local wines from the area. There are SO many wineries and vineyards in and around the area, especially around Walla Walla. I'm more of a beer chic than a wine lover, but I'm thinking I see a Saturday wine tasting tour (or 2 or 5) in my future!

Oh, and the last picture I took at a stop sign on a hill South of the downtown area looking North. I'm still surprised at how hilly Pendleton is. Some of the neighborhoods are quite fun to drive around in.

Not much more to report! Enjoy the pictures! Did I mention how much I LOVE our faster internet speed?!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Elk, Walla Walla and Raptors

Looks like we'll be filling up freezers with elk soon. Chris came back Friday with a cow elk. He/we spent much of the week-end cleaning up the quarters to take to a butcher, and butchering the rest ourselves (I'll spare you the pictures). We ended up filling our freezer in the house with elk meat, both for us, and for our dog (scraps). Chris likes to do the premium cuts himself (backstrap). The kids helped out. They both like working with knives, and we can supervise them closely. I like the fact that they get to see how an animal is butchered and can say that they themselves have contributed to helping prepare our food in such a way. I can't wait to get a garden going here in the Spring for the same reason. Our dog is quite the lucky dog, as we ended up with more than a few pounds of scrap meat that will be dolled out to him in the coming months.

Besides dealing with the elk and unpacking from his trip, Chris also hooked up our washer and dryer (yea!), so I can now do laundry at home. I'd been saving it up, knowing he'd be home, so I've spent much of the last few days doing loads of laundry.... We also got the computer desk put together, and some furniture moved around and put in more permanent places. I'm still unpacking boxes....

Right now Chris is in Portland for a regional inter-agency annual fire and fuels meeting. We plan to meet up with him Friday, to see our new nephew and his parents ;-). We're all really looking forward to that!

Today I decided to take a break and explore Walla Walla, Washington, about a 45 minute drive North. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the town is. It seems like the economy on the other side of the border is also doing better than here in Oregon. I made sure to drive down Main Street, as well as by Whitman College and Walla Walla University in nearby College Place. My ulterior motive was to go fabric shopping at Jo-Ann Fabric there. It's not a big store by any stretch, but at least it's there and I know how to get to it now (dangerous!). I stopped by Walla Walla Bread Company on Main Street to sample their yummy bread, and almost stopped by a Dutch Brother's Coffee stand I spied as well. I'll be back here many times, I'm sure!

Lastly, I've been noticing a lot more raptors here. These wide open spaces are much better suited for these birds than the woodpeckers we had in the woods of Northern Michigan. Even though I unpacked 5 boxes of books tonight I still can't find my bird field guides. Here's a few not-so-great pictures of a few. Any ideas what they may be? I'm thrilled to see magpies again, and the quail too, but these birds of prey are what has really grabbed my attention.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This morning as we were getting ready for another school day, Biko suddenly created a larger-and-louder-than-normal commotion. Hurrying to the dining room window to see what he could see, we saw our first quail here in Pendleton!

It's not the best pictures, but considering the dog and kid noise and excitement I was in the midst of, it was a wonder at all that I got it. There were probably a dozen or so total, most safely on the other side of the fence. When we could take no more, and after Biko had scratched up the window sill considerably (grrr...), we let him out to chase them away. The bird lover in me is sometimes not too happy about having a dog that has a strong bird-hunting instinct...

I love these birds! I'm hoping that we can soon put up a bird feeder here in our yard, out of reach from the dog (maybe out of sight too). Neighbors told me we get pheasants too. I can't wait to see what Biko does when he sees those!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Taking a break

After several not-so-fun days filled with unpacking and trying to entertain my 2 kids, I decided it was time to take a break, and packed us all in the car and drove up to the woods. The area we live in is very devoid of trees, but this is Oregon, so I knew there were some out there to be found. In our case, we only had to drive 20 or so miles to Emigrant Spring State Park to get our "tree fix". And what a fix it was!!!

It was the first time in well over a year that the kids and I have been back in the PNW woods, and it felt like coming home. Even the kids remarked that it "smelled like Oregon". It was nice to see many familiar plants and trees again, and to see some new ones.

Emigrant Spring State Park is named after a natural spring that the pioneers on the Oregon trail would stop at to get water. This part of I-84 roughly follows the old Oregon Trial route, and there are many interpretive sites along the way. I hope to stop at as many as I can with the kids in the months (and years) to come.

This "fix" is exactly what we needed today. After a few grumpy days for all of us, fresh air and being out in the beauty of nature was the cure I knew it would be.

On the way back, we stopped at a look out point on the Umatilla Indian Reservation and wow, what a view point it is! INCREDIBLE!

If you look closely below, you can see the tiny dots that are the kids. We came back refreshed and ready to tackle the upcoming week.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Room with a view

One thing that really surprised me about Pendleton, especially after living in the very flat Midwest, is how hilly it is. There are some seriously steep hilly roads here. We're not exactly in the mountains, but it makes for some wonderful views and much appreciated change of scenery. One of the best things about our house is the view! It's really the first house we've ever lived in that is up out of a valley of sorts. There's a "green" (ha!) area behind our house that is a common area that will never be developed. The whole neighborhood has these spaced through out. I love this idea! Every day I see my new neighbors walking up and down the paths that go through them. There is a park at the bottom of the hill that has about a mile of paved walking paths, soccer fields, playgrounds and a small creek that goes through it. Across the street from the park is one of my son's schools.

Best of all, I now have a kitchen window again!!! I am so excited about that. You'd think that every kitchen would have a window, but not our last house. Here's the view I've had for the last 3 years in Michigan:

Now is that a crime or what? What a miserable thing to look at while doing the dishes and preparing food....

Well, the kitchen god rewarded me this time with a lovely window with a view to look out on: Ah... much better... The school is the long yellow building on the right side.

I also took this picture of our neighborhood from across the street up on the opposite hill. As you can see, it's at the very edge of town.

One last view I'd like to get rid of.....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm an Oregonian!

Wow! What a hectic week or so it's been!! I hardly know where to start. We just got our TV and internet hooked up today, so I'm excited about getting back in touch with so many folks.

I guess I'll start with the trip. Our last day in Northern Michigan was Nov. 29th. The movers had already come and packed and loaded up our stuff in the previous days. We ate one last meal with our favorite neighbor, then got our remaining stuff packed up. Sleeping on sleeping bags and pads on a floor isn't exactly a thing I'd recommend for a night before a long day of travel, but live and learn right?

Our plumber came early to winterize the house, we finished cleaning, then said good-bye. Our later-than-anticipated departure got us down to Chicago right at evening rush hour. We also had a bad trailer light. It was the first (and hopefully last) time I've ever had a trailer on my Subaru, and driving with it was nerve wracking. Chris took the trucks and the boat. I had one kid, Chris the other, and dog and cat were also evenly div-eyed up! I must admit that it was the quietest trip I've ever taken with the kids.

Going through rush hour in Chicago with a bad trailer light was bad enough, but just after passing through we got hit by torrential rains. They were horrible! I kept getting passed by 18 wheelers, and couldn't see a thing. I don't think I've had a worse driving experience ever. Not to mention that we also went though construction and it was getting dark. We didn't get in to the hotel until almost 11 at night.

The next morning Chris finally got the trailer light working. High winds and snow in Nebraska kept us on our toes, and forced us to stop in North Platte, Nebraska for an early night. But by then my Subaru was idling horribly, and getting abysmal gas mileage. She was sounding terrible. Internet research led Chris to the answer... a loose spark plug wire. We'd had a major tune up right before leaving Michigan. We're guessing the mechanic failed to put the wire in snug and it had worked its way free. Upon inspection of the engine though, we discovered that some boots (CV?) had also torn. This concerned us enough to find an open garage to get advice from before leaving NE. It's a 3-4 hour repair job ($$) so we decided to wait and drive on, hoping for the best.

With I-80 still closed, and no signs of it opening soon we headed North into Wyoming. But the spark plug wire kept popping off. We had to stop several times to replace it as I couldn't drive once it happened. Once I got into Wyoming onto the interstate, it finally stayed put. Chris is guessing that the plug/wire was loose, and that possibly the heavy rain we went through got water into it, which may have been heating up and the steam kept popping it off. We'll get a mechanic to check it here in Pendleton once we get time and money... Needless to say, I've suddenly started dreaming about a new car.....

We stayed in Sheridan, Wyoming the third night, and got a very early start the next day. And what a wonderful day it was. Beautiful scenery, mountains (!), perfect weather, and best of all, no car problems! I must admit I was so happy to be back in the West again, so happy to see antelope and those rugged mountains. We stayed in Spokane that night, leaving the next morning for another uneventful beautiful day that brought us all the way into Pendleton at last!!

That was Monday. We took a friend's advice and ate at The Great Pacific Wine and Coffee Co. What a treat! They had more micro-brew on one shelf than I've seen in all of my last 3 years! Incredible salads (I've missed the wonderful salads we get out here), and for the kids, Italian sodas that they've also missed these last 3 years. We took the kids to each of their new schools to introduce them and to get the piles of paperwork to fill out. We then unpacked what we had, filled out school forms, and slept once again on the floor, but in our new house. This time we had our pop-up mattresses though, and it was much more comfortable.

The next day I took both kids to their new schools, got them settled in, and found the local laundry mat, while Chris went to work.

Wednesday was moving day. Did I mention that our truck driver on both ends was from Poland? He was quite a character. I loved listening to his accent. He was a really neat guy! We shared his truck with 2 other military families who were moving from Ohio to Washington state, and luckily were first to off load. It went quickly, and by lunch I was in a house jam packed with boxes! While the truck was being off loaded, Chris was loading up his pick-up with hunting and camping gear to go elk hunting. He said good-bye before they were done moving us in. I'm not too thrilled, but I figure he owes me big on this one! Hmmm I'm thinking Hawaii sounds good.... Maybe a new car AND Hawaii???

I must say that the kids are a bit frazzled going from a tiny small town school to much bigger schools, but so far they're doing well. I'm getting used to them being in 2 different schools that get out at the same time. One will soon be walking to school, while the other, I'm hoping will be taking a bus soon. We'll get it all sorted out. One of the kids' schools has solar panels all along the South side, but apparently the person who installed them passed away, and they can't find anyone else to figure out how to work them. (???!!??) But it also has passive solar design. It's a neat building, and it seems like a really good school. Both are.

Whew... are you still with me? I promise future posts will be MUCH shorter!

Anyway, you know the rest of the drill... unpacking all of the boxes, and trying to figure out how and where to put things. It's wonderful sleeping in our own beds again, and while I still haven't found my coffee maker yet, there is plenty of that wonderful PNW coffee to chose from just down the hill.